- Which teams had successful NFL drafts, and who could be struggling next season? Handing out grades for every team’s draft.
254 picks later, the draft is complete. Which teams now boast the most impressive rookie classes? Our draft grades below:
1 (9). Ed Oliver, DT, Houston
2 (38). Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma
3 (74). Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic
3 (96). Dawson Knox, TE, Mississippi
5 (147). Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida
6 (181). Jaquan Johnson, DB, Miami (FL)
7 (225). Darryl Johnson Jr., DE, North Carolina A&T
7 (228). Tommy Sweeney, TE, Boston College
Buffalo had greater needs at defensive end than defensive tackle, but not so much that they could ignore a sizable gap in talent between the top ends and tackles on the board. With Joey Bosa, Josh Allen and Clelin Ferrell gone, Ed Oliver—a compact, uncommonly agile interior rusher—became the guy for the Bills. The hope is he can consistently rush the passer. If he produces as a run defender like he did in college, his arrival could lead to an early departure for 2018 big free agent pickup Star Lotulelei, who was invisible on film for much of last season.
Rebuilding the offensive line was Buffalo’s biggest overall objective entering this offseason. With second-rounder Cody Ford likely to step in at right tackle (putting free agent pickup Ty Nsekhe in a more-fitting backup swing tackle role), the Bills have revamped everywhere except at Dion Dawkins’s left tackle spot. Hopefully that gives what should be a run-first offense the blocking dimension to compete. Benefitting from that dimension will be third-round tailback Devin Singletary, who is similar to LeSean McCoy, the man Singletary will likely supplant fully in 2020. Getting TE Dawson Knox 22 spots after Singletary was also crucial. With Jason Croom and Tyler Kroft, the Bills were average at that spot to begin with. Having three contributors gives them more chances to play out of two-tight end sets, hiding their lack of wide receiver depth and making defenses more predictable for young QB Josh Allen.
1 (13). Christian Wilkins, DT, Clemson
3 (78). Michael Deiter, OL, Wisconsin
5 (151). Andrew Van Ginkel, LB, Wisconsin
6 (202). Isaiah Prince, T, Ohio State
7 (233). Chandler Cox, FB, Auburn
7 (234). Myles Gaskin, RB, Washington
There really was no wrong direction for the Dolphins to go in this draft—with an all-new coaching staff and mediocre roster, the team is undergoing personnel overhauls on both sides of the ball. First-time head coach Brian Flores, having spent his entire career until now in New England, is expected to employ a Belichick-style scheme which would mean an emphasis on size and strength along the D-line. Interestingly, Christian Wilkins, though a highly regarded first-round talent, doesn’t completely fit this profile. Wilkins’s game is built more on movement than force. He can, however, align at multiple spots, which is key in Flores’s system.
Getting Josh Rosen with the 62nd overall pick (plus a fifth-rounder next year) is incredible value. Rosen was in a no-win situation with the Cardinals last year and should not be viewed any differently than he was coming out of UCLA. He will almost certainly start right away and play behind Michael Deiter, who started every game the last four years at Wisconsin and fills a left guard spot that was devoid of any starting caliber options prior to this draft.
New England Patriots
1 (32). N’Keal Harry WR Arizona State
2 (45). Joejuan Williams DB Vanderbilt
3 (77). Chase Winovich DL Michigan
3 (87). Damien Harris RB Alabama
3 (101). Yodny Cajuste OL West Virginia
4 (118). Hjalte Froholdt OL Arkansas
4 (133). Jarrett Stidham QB Auburn
5 (159). Byron Cowart DL Maryland
5 (163). Jake Bailey P Stanford
7 (252). Ken Webster DB Mississippi
Bill Belichick typically does not draft wide receivers early, and the fact that he took one with so many others on the board suggests he absolutely adores N’Keal Harry. The Arizona State Sun Devil often played inside, but in this system, where shiftiness and quickness are demanded of slot receivers, he’ll almost always align his 6' 2", 228-pound frame outside. This means the Patriots are not dependent on veteran free agent pickup Demaryius Thomas bouncing back from a late-season Achilles tear or on talented-but-troubled ex-Brown Josh Gordon getting back (and staying) on the field.
Joejuan Williams in Round 2 seems like a better pick the more you think about it. The Pats are fine in the secondary, and they’ve taken other second-round corners in recent years who didn’t play much (right now this includes 2018’s Duke Dawson), but Williams could see action sooner than later considering that, at 6' 4", he’s uniquely built to match up to bigger receivers and even tight ends. Undrafted second-year pro J.C. Jackson fills that role (and quite well), but Williams provides more options (Belichick can get very detailed in deciding which corners match on certain receivers). Plus, you must consider that Patrick Chung’s “big nickel” slot job could soon come open.
Right after Williams came Chase Winovich, a high-effort edge defender whose playing time in this scheme will depend on his physical stoutness. Then it was RB Damien Harris, who was featured at Alabama but will struggle to find a role in a backfield that already has an effective base down runner in 2018 first-rounder Sony Michel. Harris is a serviceable receiver, but there’s no way he’ll take passing down snaps from Rex Burkhead or especially James White. The rest of the draft was focused on finding depth at O-line and quarterback. And out of sheer principle, we should bump the Patriots up a half-letter grade for not looking for Tom Brady’s replacement. That six-time World Champion horse is worth riding to the very, very end.
New York Jets
1 (3). Quinnen Williams, DL, Alabama
3 (68). Jachai Polite, DL, Florida
3 (92). Chuma Edoga, T, USC
4 (121). Trevon Wesco, TE, West Virginia
5 (157). Blake Cashman, LB, Minnesota
6 (196). Blessuan Austin, DB, Rutgers
Given how anxious the Jets were to trade Pick 3, you have to wonder what they’ll say to Quinnen Williams. (You were our top guy all along!?) There are worse things than snagging the player whom many believe was the best in the draft, but it’s worth pointing out that the Jets already have a similar style of force in Leonard Williams and a paucity of edge rushers, which will be a problem when new defensive coordinator Gregg Williams goes to his various disguised Cover 2 concepts.
With no second-round pick after trading up last year to get Sam Darnold, the Jets couldn’t address their talent-bereft defense again until the third round, taking the pure edge rusher that many thought they’d get in Kentucky’s Josh Allen at No. 3. Instead it is Jachai Polite, who could play the passing down specialist role that Genard Avery played under Williams in Cleveland last year. They went for raw talent later in the third round, this time on offense, in the form of USC offensive tackle Chuma Edoga, who they hope can develop enough to give them options next year when the contracts for their top three tackles, Kelvin Beachum, Brandon Shell and Brent Qvale all expire.
1 (25). Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma
3 (85). Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech
3 (93). Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame
4 (113). Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State
4 (123). Ben Powers, OL, Oklahoma
4 (127). Iman Marshall, CB, USC
5 (160). Daylon Mack, DL, Texas A&M
6 (197). Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State
The selection of Marquise Brown and Miles Boykin in Rounds 1 and 3 fill a desperate need at wide receiver for the Ravens. Brown has the type of speed and quickness that makes a defense passive, which will help Baltimore’s new expansive running game. Boykin might be more of a project, but in this lineup, that shouldn’t stop him from getting a first-string role outside.
Selecting OLB Jaylon Ferguson between the receivers was prudent; Za’Darius Smith (Green Bay) and Terrell Suggs (Arizona) were lost in free agency and the same might be true next year of Matt Judon. Yes, provisions were taken for these losses back in 2017 with the second-round selection of Tyus Bowser and third-round pick of Tim Williams, but neither player has developed.
Despite other needs up front on defense, Baltimore’s fourth round focused on buttressing depth at already strong areas: running back Justice Hill puts last year’s surprise late-season starter Gus Edwards on the roster bubble, Ben Powers figures to be a backup utility guard (which this team has wished it had at times in recent years) and Iman Marshall is, well, an extra corner for if/when Jimmy Smith and Brandon Carr (who will be 33 this May) leave in 2020.
1 (11). Jonah Williams, OL, Alabama
2 (52). Drew Sample, TE, Washington
3 (72). Germaine Pratt, LB, North Carolina State
4 (104). Ryan Finley, QB, North Carolina State
4 (125). Renell Wren, DL, Arizona State
4 (136). Michael Jordan, G, Ohio State
6 (182). Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M
6 (210). Deshaun Davis, LB, Auburn
6 (211). Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma
7 (223). Jordan Brown, CB, South Dakota State
Apparently Bengals fans weren’t the only ones feeling unsettled about the team signing weekly bull rushing victim Bobby Hart at right tackle. With Jonah Williams now aboard, Hart can slip into a more-fitting backup role. It’s also possible Williams will first get a crack at guard, where Clint Boling the last two years has been so-so at best on the left side and where ex-Bill John Miller lacks twitch and quickness on the right side. This in mind, it’s possible that fourth round pick Michael Jordan could also compete for playing time inside.
Drew Sample’s addition presents an opportunity for more two-tight end sets, which is a clever way to diversify an offense that must start with the ground game. Sample is a noted on-the-move blocker, which will serve him well in new head coach Zac Taylor’s staple split-zone runs, where the tight end must work back across the formation to clean up a backside edge defender.
Staying with the theme of drafting in positions of need, the Bengals tabbed downhill thumping linebacker Germaine Pratt, who, given the team’s mediocrity at this spot, could immediately compete for a three-down role. And they took a quarterback (Ryan Finley), but waiting until early in Round 4 suggests this was with the backup job in mind, not Andy Dalton’s starting job. Dalton can be cut for $0 in dead money next year, when the draft is expected to offer better options under center.
2 (46). Greedy Williams, CB, LSU
3 (80). Sione Takitaki, LB, Brigham Young
4 (119). Sheldrick Redwine, DB, Miami (FL)
5 (155). Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama
5 (170). Austin Seibert, K, Oklahoma
6 (189). Drew Forbes, T, Southeast Missouri State
7 (221). Donnie Lewis Jr., CB, Tulane
With the Odell Beckham trade costing a first-rounder, this is where the obligatory sentence about Cleveland’s new offensive firepower and high expectations goes. To help fulfill those expectations, GM John Dorsey went defense with his first four picks. Cornerback Greedy Williams has playmaking tools but can struggle with transitional movement. Because of that, and because of his 6' 2" size, he’s better suited to match up to bigger receivers, which makes him a nice complement to last year’s fourth overall pick, Denzel Ward, who has the unusual traits demanded for matching to smaller, quicker receivers.
In the third round, Sione Takitaki was an interesting choice for the simple reason that the Browns, assuming they’ll re-sign productive middle linebacker Joe Schobert, don’t have an opening at linebacker. This pick is all the more perplexing given that thumping first-and second-down linebacker Mack Wilson was taken in the fifth round.
1 (10). Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
3 (66). Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo
3 (83). Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State
4 (122). Benny Snell Jr., RB, Kentucky
5 (141). Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan
6 (175). Sutton Smith, DE, Northern Illinois
6 (192). Isaiah Buggs, DL, Alabama
6 (207). Ulysees Gilbert III, LB, Akron
7 (219). Derwin Gray, OL, Maryland
You may have heard: the Pittsburgh Steelers rarely trade up. (The last time was 2003 for some soft-spoken safety named Troy Polamalu.) But Devin Bush is worth making an exception for given that the team had reason to believe their division-rival Bengals wanted him, but even more so because the Steelers badly needed him. Bush is a modern day run-and-chase linebacker. He decisively fires his gun and has superb closing speed. In other words, he’s another Ryan Shazier, whose tragic injury in 2017 dropped this defense down an entire level.
The Antonio Brown trade wound up yielding third-round receiver Diontae Johnson and fifth-round tight end Zach Gentry. It’s realistic to think that together, they might provide half the production that Brown would have, at least in these first couple of years. But on the plus side, they’re much cheaper than Brown and, presumably, not despicable teammates.
It will be interesting to see if third-round corner Justin Layne gets on the field. The Steelers, with so many complex matchup zones and disguised pressures, don’t love playing young defensive backs, but with inconsistent ex-Chief Steven Nelson as their starting right corner, they could be tempted to give Layne, a plus-sized bump-and-run defender, a close look.
1 (23). Tytus Howard, OL, Alabama State
2 (54). Lonnie Johnson, CB, Kentucky
2 (55). Max Scharping, T, Northern Illinois
3 (86). Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State
5 (161). Charles Omenihu, DL, Texas
6 (195). Xavier Crawford, DB, Central Michigan
7 (220). Cullen Gillaspia, FB, Texas A&M
The Texans’ biggest problem last year was they didn’t trust their offensive tackles—and with good reason. Knowing that youngsters Julie’n Davenport and Martinas Rankin (as well as the since-departed Kendall Lamm) could not survive one-on-one, Bill O’Brien kept tight ends and backs in to help block, which gave Deshaun Watson fewer options downfield and invited defenses to blitz more out of man coverage. The result was Watson taking about three seasons’ worth of hits. You could argue it was a misguided schematic approach to pass protection, but instead of toying with that approach in 2019, the Texans invested heavily in players who they hope can fix the problem on their own, taking Tytus Howard with their first-round pick and Max Scharping with their second.
One slot before Scharping, they drafted corner Lonnie Johnson, addressing a position that felled their defense in the playoffs and will need replenishing in 2020, as Bradley Roby and Johnathan Joseph are on expiring deals, while Aaron Colvin (last year’s big free agent pickup) will be cut if he doesn’t earn more playing time. The other notable pick is TE Kahale Warring, a high-upside freak athlete who could give O’Brien the mismatch weapon that he’s long sought but never had in Houston.
2 (34). Rock Ya-Sin, CB, Temple
2 (49). Ben Banogu, DE, TCU
2 (59). Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
3 (89). Bobby Okereke, LB, Stanford
4 (109). Khari Willis, S, Michigan State
5 (144). Marvell Tell III, S, USC
5 (164). E.J. Speed, LB, Tarleton State
6 (199). Gerri Green, DE, Mississippi State
7 (240). Jackson Barton, OL, Utah
7 (246). Javon Patterson, OL, Mississippi
Last year we said the Colts needed to draft all defense for the next few years—and so far, they mostly have. This year, other than second-round receiver Parris Campbell, who has a chance to compete right away in Indianapolis’s thin receiving corps, they went defense with their first eight picks. It started with Rock Ya-Sin, whose presence likely relegates Quincy Wilson to dime duties, where Wilson has been at his best as a utility matchup defender. Ya-Sin will work against the smaller receivers, with the recently re-signed Pierre Desir, who was great down the stretch, continuing to travel with bigs. Kenny Moore will man the slot, where he’s one of the NFL’s very best. These men will play predominant zone concepts, but on the outside, many NFL zone coverages, including in this scheme, have man-to-man principles.
And it’s possible Andy’s overall man-to-man principles will continue to expand. That endeavor took off late last season, when defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus featured more slot blitzes from matchup zone looks. The fact that Indy drafted heavily this year at linebacker and secondary instead of D-line suggests the scheme will keep gaining dimension.
1 (7). Josh Allen, LB, Kentucky
2 (35). Jawaan Taylor, OL, Florida
3 (69). Josh Oliver, TE, San Jose State
3 (98). Quincy Williams II, LB, Murray State
5 (140). Ryquell Armstead, RB, Temple
6 (178). Gardner Minshew II, QB, Washington State
7 (235). Dontavius Russell, DL, Auburn
Many mock drafts had the Jags taking Jawaan Taylor…at No. 7. He wound up going to them at 35, filling an immediate need at right tackle. His mauling style fits the run-first profile that this team’s brass insists on having. The Jags still might not possess the right type of O-line for that approach—the interior isn’t as good as people think and left tackle Cam Robinson, who missed last season with a knee injury, is a better pass protector than run-blocker—but Taylor puts them closer in that direction.
As for Josh Allen, their first-round pick, it might seem like a classic case of a team jumping at value, since defensive end was not high on Jacksonville’s list of needs. But upon closer inspection, this roster’s only real quality edge rusher was Yannick Ngakoue. Calais Campbell could dominate off the edge because he’s great and can be effective anywhere, but his best work on passing downs comes inside. That’s where he can play now, with Allen working off the left side. Remember, the biggest reason the ascending Jags suddenly came back to the pack in 2018 was their four-man rush fell off.
Jacksonville’s strong top of the draft was offset (a little) by a questionable third round. Josh Oliver is potentially the athletic receiving tight end that new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo has always wanted but never had. However, Oliver did not block at San Jose State, which makes it hard to envision how he’ll work in an offense with a smashmouth foundation. And regarding Quincy Williams, many draft analysts had never heard of him—that doesn’t mean he can’t play, but you have to wonder if the Jags could have drafted him much later.
1 (19). Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State
2 (51). A.J. Brown, WR, Mississippi
3 (82). Nate Davis, OL, Charlotte
4 (116). Amani Hooker, DB, Iowa
5 (168). D'Andre Walker, LB, Georgia
6 (188). David Long Jr., LB, West Virginia
Jurrell Casey is signed through 2023 and is not slowing down, so the first-round selection of Jeffrey Simmons is more likely about the Titans simply seeing value in a position where depth is crucial. Simmons, nursing a recently torn ACL, might sit out much of 2019, but he’ll be here when the contracts for defensive linemen Austin Johnson, Darius Kilgo and the recently signed Brent Urban expire. In sub-packages, the Titans present various rush concepts from disguised fronts. If Simmons becomes another version of Casey, he’ll be worth it.
The rest of Tennessee’s draft was about traditional need-filling. A.J. Brown is a plug-and-play receiver who will likely operate outside and from the slot. His style should fit this offense’s tight-aligned, multi-receiver route combinations. Guard Nate Davis is regarded by some as a mauler, which isn’t typically what you look for in an outside zone-blocking scheme, but new blood will be soon needed at right guard, where Kevin Pamphile is playing on an expiring deal. Amani Hooker is regarded as a smart, versatile safety, which works well in a Dean Pees-led scheme that features traditional coverages out of untraditional looks.
1 (20). Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
2 (41). Dalton Risner, OL, Kansas State
2 (42). Drew Lock, QB, Missouri
3 (71). Dre'Mont Jones, DT, Ohio State
5 (156). Justin Hollins, LB, Oregon
6 (187). Juwann Winfree, WR, Colorado
The Broncos’ biggest need was interior offensive line, so it would have been interesting to see if the team would have still taken TE Noah Fant at 20 if Garrett Bradbury and Chris Lindstrom were available. In Dalton Risner they still found what’s almost certain to be a Day 1 starter, but at what position? Risner can play anywhere up front, which raises the theoretical question of whether you should put your most talented player at HIS best spot or put your lesser players in comfortable positions and have your best guy fill the weakest remaining spot. If it’s the latter, then Risner’s position will depend on how the Broncos feel about Connor McGovern at center and Elijah Wilkinson at guard.
Risner will almost certainly start next season, but what about fellow second-round pick, QB Drew Lock? John Elway’s last two high-drafted QBs, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch, rode the bench in Years 1 and 2, but, of course, neither ultimately developed into starters in Denver. Will that history have any bearing on this decision? More likely, the Broncos’ record come midseason will—if the team is 6–3 when the early November bye rolls around, expect Lock to stay on the bench. You don’t hire a 60-year-old head coach (Vic Fangio) and trade for a veteran QB like Joe Flacco if you don’t believe you’re ready to compete right now.
Whoever is under center will at least have a flexible receiving weapon in Fant, though the Iowa tight end’s lack of blocking prowess might limit his first and second down contributions. Some scouts also believe Fant is raw and needs route running refinement.
Lastly, Dre’Mont Jones is worth mentioning for the simple reason that Elway has a good record of drafting quality interior defensive linemen in the middle rounds. And two notable guys from his good record—Derek Wolfe and Adam Gotsis, as well as journeyman Shelby Harris—are in the final year of their contracts.
Kansas City Chiefs
2 (56). Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia
2 (63). Juan Thornhill, S, Virginia
3 (84). Khalen Saunders, DL, Western Illinois
6 (201). Rashad Fenton, DB, South Carolina
6 (214). Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State
7 (216). Nick Allegretti, OL, Illinois
If not for the NFL draft, the release of an audio recording between Tyreek Hill and his fiancée discussing their son’s broken arm would have completely dominated the sports talk landscape this weekend. And it likely still will in the near future, as it seems imminent that Kansas City will release Hill.
The Chiefs drafted Mecole Hardman from Georgia, who doesn’t have Hill’s unparalleled speed and quickness (no one does) but is at least versatile enough to allow Kansas City to maintain many of the plays designed round Hill’s skillset.
On the note of versatility, Juan Thornhill should pair well with the Chiefs’ multi-tooled safety Tyrann Mathieu. A safety, after all, can’t play all over if your other safety is constricted to one part of the field. Thornhill has box, linebacker and slot capabilities, plus—presumably—the capacity to patrol centerfield. Kansas City’s other early pick, defensive lineman Khalen Saunders, is important for the simple reason that this run defense has been perplexingly bad for several years and, though not untalented on paper, it has little to lose by exploring new personnel.
Los Angeles Chargers
1 (28). Jerry Tillery, DL, Notre Dame
2 (60). Nasir Adderley, DB, Delaware
3 (91). Trey Pipkins, T, Sioux Falls
4 (130). Drue Tranquill, LB, Notre Dame
5 (166). Easton Stick, QB, North Dakota State
6 (200). Emeke Egbule, LB, Houston
7 (242). Cortez Broughton, DT, Cincinnati
Three of L.A.’s top defensive tackles, Darius Philon, Corey Liuget and Damion Square, departed this offseason, and one of the remaining two, Brandon Mebane, is 34 and likely to depart after next season. Adding Jerry Tillery, who can step in at 3-technique and force last year’s third-rounder, Justin Jones, to compete in Mebane’s nose-shade spot, solves a lot of problems up front.
While Tillery was the boring but responsible pick, second-rounder Nasir Adderley could prove to be the snazzy one. He will likely be cast in the centerfield role of coordinator Gus Bradley’s straightforward single-high scheme, allowing Derwin James to play the box. But given that Adderley is, like every high-drafted safety these days, versatile—and given that James is immensely versatile—it could be time for the Chargers to diversify their scheme.
L.A.’s only other need was at linebacker, which they addressed with Tillery’s Notre Dame teammate, Drue Tranquill, in Round 4, and again with Houston’s Emeke Egbule in Round 6. That Egbule pick was, like all of the Chargers’ last five picks (including offensive tackle Trey Pipkins at the end of Round 3) primarily about adding depth.
1 (4). Clelin Ferrell, DE, Clemson
1 (24). Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama
1 (27). Johnathan Abram, S, Mississippi State
2 (40). Trayvon Mullen, CB, Clemson
4 (106). Maxx Crosby, DL, Eastern Michigan
4 (129). Isaiah Johnson, CB, Houston
4 (137). Foster Moreau, TE, LSU
5 (149). Hunter Renfrow, WR, Clemson
7 (230). Quinton Bell, DE, Prairie View A&M
Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio made a great point: if Raiders GM Mike Mayock were still on TV, he likely would have touted Clelin Ferrell as a top-notch prospect, shaping the perception of the Clemson defensive end and thus leaving fans less bewildered when Ferrell’s name was called at Pick 4. Ferrell may well live up to his high draft billing ... but when a team picks a guy fourth overall, the team generally expects him to become a superstar. And 99% of superstar defensive linemen have some sort of twitch, quickness or burst. Ferrell did not show a ton of that at Clemson, instead looking more like a “good at everything, great at nothing guy.”
Just going by labels, you can knock Oakland’s other two first-rounders, as well. Josh Jacobs is a running back, which are supposedly a dime a dozen these days, and Johnathan Abram is a safety, which is an increasingly valuable position but not necessarily in a system that features as much two-deep zone as defensive coordinator Paul Guenther’s. But on the positive end, Jacobs is a multidimensional back whom some have compared to Alvin Kamara. If a known-Kamara were in this draft, he’d go top five. And if Abram becomes a playmaker, then the rest of Oakland’s D will get collectively better. That’s important considering this unit last year was so bad that coaches rotated at every position except middle linebacker Tahir Whitehead’s.
Given that dearth of talent on D, it’s possible that the Raiders’ next three picks, CB Trayvon Mullen, DL Maxx Crosby and CB Isaiah Johnson, could play meaningful snaps as rookies.
2 (58). Trysten Hill, DT, UCF
3 (90). Connor McGovern, G, Penn State
4 (128). Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis
5 (158). Michael Jackson Sr., CB, Miami (Fla.)
5 (165). Joe Jackson, DE, Miami (Fla.)
6 (213). Donovan Wilson, S, Texas A&M
7 (218). Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State
7 (241). Jalen Jelks, DE, Oregon
As many Cowboys fans Twitter have reminded us, the team’s first-round pick this year was essentially Amari Cooper. That Raiders trade left Dallas with the 26th pick in the second round as its first selection, and using it to replace self-exiled defensive tackle David Irving made sense. Like Irving, Trysten Hill has an excellent first step—important in Dallas’s gap-shooting scheme, which emphasizes not just quick penetration but also multidirectional D-line slants and stunts, demanding that front line players fire off quickly at different angles.
The Connor McGovern pick could prove valuable if right tackle La’el Collins, in a contract year, is deemed unworthy of a lucrative second deal. Or, more likely, McGovern could one day replace last year’s second-round pick Connor Williams, who looks and plays much too light and might not have the anchor strength to survive long-term at left guard.
The rest of the draft was about acquiring depth in a defense that has 11 contributors who are in the last year of their contracts. Oh, and acquiring depth behind offensive headliner Ezekiel Elliott (fourth-round running back Tony Pollard), which this team hasn’t had since Darren McFadden and Alfred Morris in 2017.
New York Giants
1 (6). Daniel Jones, QB, Duke
1 (17). Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson
1 (30). Deandre Baker, CB, Georgia
3 (95). Oshane Ximines, DE, Old Dominion
4 (108). Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame
5 (143). Ryan Connelly, LB, Wisconsin
5 (171). Darius Slayton, WR, Auburn
6 (180). Corey Ballentine, CB, Washburn
7 (232). George Asafo-Adjei, T, Kentucky
7 (245). Chris Slayton, DT, Syracuse
Giants fans have been griping for years that the team should find an heir for Eli Manning. And when the Giants finally do, drafting Daniel Jones with the No. 6 overall pick, the response is, “No, not THAT guy, not with the sixth pick!” There will be plenty of time to hash out that argument and watch it quickly get old, as Jones will be heavily scrutinized from now until the day Eli finally IS dismissed. (Then, Jones will be scrutinized even more after that.) Keep in mind, fans’ and media’s reaction to the Jones pick would be more tempered if GM Dave Gettleman were a polished, diplomatic public speaker. Gettleman’s gruff, semi-patronizing tone naturally provoke rebuttals and arguments.
With their next two picks, the Giants did what everyone agreed they most needed to do for 2019: replenish the defense. The Dexter Lawrence choice, however, was befuddling—not just because Lawrence, a potentially dominant gap-clogger, might prove to be only a first and second down player, but because the Giants already had two good young defensive tackles in B.J. Hill and Dalvin Tomlinson. Gettleman has always had an affinity for drafting talented interior defensive linemen.
Deandre Baker was a more understandable choice, though trading back into the first-round made him extra expensive. Baker must contribute right away since defensive coordinator James Bettcher’s blitz-intensive scheme demands outside corners who can cover one-on-one. Entering the draft, New York had only one such corner, Janoris Jenkins, and he is coming off an erratic season. The cornerbacking unit is thin enough that Baker’s fellow rookie, fourth-rounder Julian Love, might also warrant a big role early on.
Because of the emphasis on blitzing, the Giants are less dependent than most teams on natural edge rushers, which is why, despite this being a rich edge-rusher draft, they didn’t take one until Oshane Ximines at the end of Round 3.
1 (22). Andre Dillard, OL, Washington State
2 (53). Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State
2 (57) J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford
4 (138). Shareef Miller, DE, Penn State
5 (167). Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern
Every pick made sense for the Eagles, especially when you look a few years down the road. Andre Dillard is a project for Jeff Stoutland, one of football’s highest-regarded offensive line coaches. The hope is the Washington State product can step in at left tackle next year when 37-year-old future Hall-of-Famer Jason Peters likely retires. Dillard was not asked to execute NFL-style run-blocks much at WSU, and his progress there is crucial because Philadelphia’s offense is predicated on having a schematically diverse ground game. Injuries in the backfield prevented that last year, which is why, even after trading a conditional sixth-round pick for Bears zone-running ace Jordan Howard, the Eagles spent a second-rounder on Miles Sanders, a smooth three-down back who, unlike Howard, has the lateral agility to create his own space. Sanders will contribute right away and probably earn the top role in 2020.
At wideout, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside offers the detailed mechanics and steady possession traits to consistently capitalize on opportunities created by Doug Pederson’s two-and three-receiver route combinations. His presence makes it easier to trade Nelson Agholor this year or let him walk next year. Also helping for next year is Shareef Miller, who adds options at defensive end, where veterans Chris Long and/or Vinny Curry might depart. (It’s possible Long could even be gone before this season.)
1 (15). Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
1 (26). Montez Sweat, DE, Mississippi State
3 (76). Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State
4 (112). Bryce Love, RB, Stanford
4 (131). Wes Martin, OL, Indiana
5 (153). Ross Pierschbacher, OL, Alabama
5 (173). Cole Holcomb, LB, North Carolina
6 (206). Kelvin Harmon, WR, North Carolina State
7 (227). Jimmy Moreland, CB, James Madison
7 (253). Jordan Brailford, DE, Oklahoma State
That sound you hear is Jay Gruden’s seat sizzling. Washington went offense with five of its first six picks, including QB Dwayne Haskins with Pick 1 (15th overall). Gruden is an offensive wizard, and if that wizardry doesn’t make immediate magic, owner Dan Snyder (who some believe was behind the Haskins pick) could hastily declare that it’s the right time to bring in a fresh coaching staff. You can bet the possibility of this scenario has already unfolded in the back of Gruden’s mind. He knows that the pressure to play Haskins will begin with Case Keenum’s first interception—nay, Keenum’s first incompletion. Gruden also knows that Haskins is a project, needing refinement in his pocket poise and precision accuracy. It’s a tough spot for a coach, but such is life in the NFL.
Giving Haskins a familiar target like Terry McLaurin was wise. The addition of tailback Bryce Love in Round 4 makes you really wonder about the health of last year’s second-round pick Derrius Guice, whose rehab from last August’s torn ACL was reportedly delayed by an infection. Perhaps the Redskins, who have now drafted a running back nine years in a row, saw Love as simply great value considering he was taken before the team addressed its most immediate need, left guard. That was done by picking Wes Martin, who will compete with flamed-out ex-Giants left tackle Ereck Flowers. The more agile zone-blocker will get the job.
As for the one pick that did not go offense—Washington traded back into Round 1 to snatch pass rushing dynamo Montez Sweat, who fell because of a heart condition. The hope is Sweat will correct the defense’s deficiency off the right edge, where 2017 second-rounder Ryan Anderson has not developed and where veterans Preston Smith and Trent Murphy have been lost in free agency each of the last two years.
3 (10). David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State
4 (126). Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia
6 (205). Duke Shelley, CB, Kansas State
7 (222). Kerrith Whyte, RB, Florida Atlantic
7 (238). Stephen Denmark, CB, Valdosta State
Last year Chicago’s early selections were spent on various roster-building pieces, which has worked out well considering this team won the NFC North and entered the offseason with no major needs. David Montgomery was a great value, even considering that the Bears traded up to get him—a team can afford to do when it has no major needs. Montgomery is a tenacious Marshawn Lynch-style runner who can provide sustainability on early downs, keeping Tarik Cohen in a hybrid flex weapon role. We don’t know if Montgomery can be as potent an all-around zone runner as predecessor Jordan Howard (who was dealt to Philadelphia for a conditional fifth/sixth-rounder in 2020), but he’s fresher than Howard and, more importantly, will be cheaper over the next few years.
At receiver, there’s no clear role available for Riley Ridley in 2019. Allen Robinson is a solid starter, last year’s second-round pick Anthony Miller is expected to ascend, and Taylor Gabriel and newly acquired Cordarrelle Patterson are vying for the gadget and vertical designer opportunities that are showcased in Matt Nagy’s offense.
1 (8). T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
2 (43). Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii
3 (81). Will Harris, S, Boston College
4 (117). Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson
5 (146). Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
6 (184). Travis Fulgham, WR, Old Dominion
6 (186). Ty Johnson, RB, Maryland
7 (224). Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia
7 (229). P.J. Johnson, DT, Arizona
Head coach Matt Patricia is determined to shape the Lions into a Patriots-style offense, and obviously finding a five-tool tight end is a strong first step. It’s too much to say T.J. Hockenson will be the next Rob Gronkowski, but Hockenson is one of the highest-rated tight end prospects of this century. His blocking is even more touted than his receiving—an important note given Detroit’s two-decade-long effort to improve its feeble ground game.
Friday’s picks were spent on buttressing the defensive back seven. Jahlani Tavai has the thumping size that Patricia, who also takes a Patriots-style approach on defense, covets. Will Harris provides crucial depth, as Patricia likes to play with three, and sometimes four, safeties on the field. The question is whether Harris can immediately take snaps from veteran Tavon Wilson, who is unlikely to be re-signed after this season. It will come down to how trusted Harris is in man coverages, either as a matchup player or roving middle-of-the-field defender. He isn’t needed in a major role right away considering last year’s third-rounder, Tracy Walker, is ready for fulltime centerfield duties and strong safety Quandre Diggs remains the best player that most fans have never heard of.
The rest of the draft was focused on adding depth to a roster that, thanks to an active free agency, was not lacking in any particular first-string position. One player to keep an eye on is Amani Oruwariye, a long-armed press corner who, thanks to 2017 second-rounder Teez Tabor’s disconcerting inconsistency, could get a closer look than most fifth-round picks.
Green Bay Packers
1 (12). Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan
1 (21). Darnell Savage, Jr., S, Maryland
2 (44). Elgton Jenkins, C, Mississippi State
3 (75). Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M
5 (150). Kingsley Keke, DE, Texas A&M
6 (185). Ka’dar Hollman, CB, Toledo
6 (194). Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame
7 (226). Ty Summers, LB, TCU
Part of why the Packers pay Aaron Rodgers huge money is they believe he makes everyone on offense better. Therefore this team can afford to invest primarily on defense, which it has now done with its first pick every year since 2011. Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine believes in two key things: aggressive, destructive play up front (as opposed to sounder but more passive play) and diversity in coverage personnel. And so the Packers took a flyer on the uber-talented Rashan Gary, even though their defensive line did not have any holes to fill. Some have debated what position Gary will play. With Green Bay’s diverse fronts, the answer will be ... many.
Nine picks after Gary, the Packers called hard-hitting safety Darnell Savage, who at Maryland played back deep and in the slot. Savage will likely be moved around, with his best chance at playing time coming as a free safety, given that expensive free agent ex-Bear Adrian Amos is best as a strong safety and 2017 second-rounder Josh Jones is best as a dime linebacker.
Day 2 was spent giving resources to Rodgers. Elgton Jenkins indirectly provides an answer at right tackle, as free agent pickup Billy Turner can slide over there from guard next year when Bryan Bulaga likely departs. TE Jace Sternberger has drawn comparisons, stylistically, to Travis Kelce. Remember how effective Rodgers was with receiving tight end Jared Cook a few years ago? With Sternberger and Jimmy Graham, he now has two (that means schematic flexibility), with Sternberger doubling as the long-term answer to replace the aging Graham either in 2020 or ’21.
1 (18). Garrett Bradbury, C, North Carolina State
2 (18). Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama
3 (102). Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State
4 (114). Dru Samia, G, Oklahoma
5 (162). Cameron Smith, LB, USC
6 (190). Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas
6 (191). Marcus Epps, S, Wyoming
6 (193). Olisaemeka Udoh, T, Elon
7 (217). Kris Boyd, CB, Texas
7 (239). Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon
7 (247). Olabisi Johnson, WR, Colorado State
7 (250). Austin Cutting, LS, Air Force
No team entering this draft had a more obvious need than the Vikings did at interior offensive line. Last year’s offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, did not run the ball nearly as much as head coach Mike Zimmer wanted in part because DeFilippo knew that Minnesota’s guards and center could not move the line of scrimmage. With new offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski running a pure outside zone scheme (hence the hiring of veteran assistant Gary Kubiak), Vikings linemen will be asked to move the line of scrimmage with their initial quickness and unified blocking techniques—and Garrett Bradbury is considered tailor-made for that role. He played center at North Carolina State, but some believe he can move to guard. That decision could come down to where the Vikings want to play Pat Elflein, who last year struggled at center but will be better with improved players around him. One of those players could be fourth-round pick Dru Samia, given that he need only beat out so-so ex-Titan right guard Josh Kline for a starting job.
In the second round, Minnesota addressed its lack of athleticism at tight end by drafting Irv Smith Jr. He’ll replace the steady but athletically limited Kyle Rudolph, it’s just a matter of when. Smith should expand the multi-receiver route designs, which Stefanski is great on constructing. In Alexander Mattison the Vikings found a complement to tailback Dalvin Cook, a one-dimensional zone runner with durability concerns.
1 (14). Chris Lindstrom, G, Boston College
1 (31). Kaleb McGary, T, Washington
4 (111). Kendall Sheffield, CB, Ohio State
4 (135). John Cominsky, DE, Charleston Univ.
5 (152). Qadree Ollison, RB, Pittsburgh
5 (172). Jordan Miller, CB, Washington
6 (203). Marcus Green, RB, Louisiana-Monroe
It’s a little surprising the Falcons would take two offensive linemen in Round 1 after signing guards James Carpenter and especially Jamon Brown to notable money in free agency. But when you look closer, it makes sense. Lindstrom is an insanely gifted athlete who fits well in Atlanta’s outside zone scheme. He’ll supplant Carpenter, who has experience in the scheme but isn’t athletic enough to consistently execute its east-and-west movement, now becomes a source of depth. Kaleb McGary’s height (6' 7") suggests he’ll play right tackle like he did at Washington, but he’s also somewhat short-armed, which means he might fit better at guard. Fortunately, Brown can play both spots, allowing the Falcons to put McGary where he appears most comfortable. (The guess here is it will be right tackle.)
Aside from maybe a lack of pass rushing depth, the Falcons had no obvious needs on defense, which is why they could invest heavily along the O-line. In doing so, their third pick didn’t come until Round 4. Kendall Sheffield is an outside corner who didn’t always find the ball in college. That’s notable because Atlanta coach Dan Quinn believes ball-tracking is the biggest key to playing corner in his Seahawks-style Cover 3 scheme. Sheffield might be better suited inside, which makes more sense given the voids left by the dismissals of Robert Alford (now a Cardinal) and Brian Poole (now a Jet).
1 (16). Brian Burns, DE, Florida State
2 (37). Greg Little, T, Mississippi
3 (100). Will Grier, QB, West Virginia
4 (115). Christian Miller, LB, Alabama
5 (154). Jordan Scarlett, RB, Florida
6 (212). Dennis Daley, T, South Carolina
7 (237). Terry Godwin, WR, Georgia
Coach Ron Rivera has talked about playing more 3–4, but he’s simply referring to defensive structures, not defensive execution—in other words, the Panthers will remain a one-gap-attacking defense. For that to work, especially in front of their staple zone coverages on third down, you need edge rushers. Hence the selection of Brian Burns, who at Florida State played much lighter than his listed 250-pound weight and might be limited to obvious passing situations. If that’s the case, free agent pickup Bruce Irvin, who also isn’t the girthiest edge defender, must handle early down snaps opposite stud Mario Addison (who, it’s worth noting, is 32 and in a contract year).
Second-round pick Greg Little will hopefully stabilize oft-injured (and now departed) veteran Matt Kalil’s old left tackle spot, as well as the rest of the O-line, with right tackle Taylor Moton moving to left guard and sturdy, ascending 26-year-old Daryl Williams remaining at right tackle. If Williams, however, does not bounce back from 2018’s season-long knee injury, he won’t be re-signed after this year. In that case, the Panthers would likely move Moton back to right tackle and rue the fact that they didn’t find a developmental guard in this draft. They might also feel that way about cornerback, given that all of theirs save for Donte Jackson and Corn Elder are scheduled for free agency next season.
The rest of this draft was about obtaining depth, including at QB, where the team has not picked a player since Cam Newton in 2011. The media will speculate about whether Will Grier is here to replace Newton, but if that were even a consideration, Grier would have been picked much sooner.
New Orleans Saints
2 (48). Erik McCoy, OL, Texas A&M
4 (105). Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, DB, Florida
6 (177). Saquan Hampton, DB, Rutgers
7 (231). Alize Mack, TE, Notre Dame
7 (244). Kaden Elliss, LB, Idaho
With no first-round pick after last year’s trade up for defensive end Marcus Davenport, the Saints knew that their one and only glaring need—center—could not be addressed until Round 2. Smartly, they traded up again to get it done right, tabbing Erik McCoy, a shrewd technician whom many saw as a plug-and-play prospect. Center is critical in New Orleans’s scheme because Drew Brees needs to get deep in his dropback in order to see downfield, making him extra dependent on having a clean pocket to step up into.
The only other pick of note for the Saints was safety Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, a smooth, good-looking athlete who played the slot last year at Florida but translates as an NFL safety. Stylstically, he is similar to Kenny Vaccaro, whom the Saints let leave last year in free agency. Plus, if Gardner-Johnson shines, the Saints next year may not have to pay for 2016 second-rounder Vonn Bell, who is in the last year of his rookie deal.
It was a light draft for this team, but that’s because the Saints, just like last year, had few needs to address and could afford to invest in quality over quantity.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
1 (5). Devin White, LB, LSU
2 (39). Sean Bunting, DB, Central Michigan
3 (94). Jamel Dean, DB, Auburn
3 (99). Mike Edwards, S, Kentucky
4 (107). Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa
5 (145). Matt Gay, K, Utah
6 (208). Scott Miller, WR, Bowling Green
7 (215). Terry Beckner Jr., DL, Missouri
It’s a whole new day in Tampa Bay. This defense, under new head coach Bruce Arians and his defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, is now built around pressure and man coverage, not the passive zone coverages that made this unit average for so many years. Because of that, it comes as no surprise that the Bucs took corners in Rounds 2 and 3—Sean Bunting, a long-bodied press artist, and Jamel Dean, a lanky corner.
Bowles wants long-bodied defensive backs who can crowd passing lanes when his interior blitzes force a QB into a hurried throw. Usually, those hurried throws stem from pressure up the middle, which means linebackers and safeties are key. That explains the selection of Mike Edwards, who was a versatile four-year starter in the SEC, and of course, the No. 5 overall pick of Devin White. The LSU product is an undersized run-and-chase linebacker, of which the Bucs already had two: Lavonte David and ex-Cardinal Deone Bucannon. And so one can reason that the Bucs had White as clearly the best player on their board. With length and speed on the back end, the Bucs believe they can generate pressure by blitzing, which is why they didn’t address their pass rushing front until, which is only “decent,” until Round 4, taking Anthony Nelson, who is similar to underrated incumbent defensive end Carl Nassib.
This draft underscores that the Bucs do not have many needs on offense, and why the brass in Tampa Bay felt that a coaching change—Dirk Koetter out, Arians in—was the best way to improve on that side of the ball. When was the last time an offensive-minded head coach saw his new team draft defense and special teams with its first six picks?
1 (1). Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma
2 (33). Byron Murphy, CB, Washington
2 (62). Andy Isabella, WR, Massachusetts
3 (65). Zach Allen, DE, Boston College
4 (103). Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State
5 (139). Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama
6 (174). KeeSean Johnson, WR, Fresno State
6 (179). Lamont Gaillard, C, Georgia
7 (248). Joshua Miles, T, Morgan State
7 (249). Michael Dogbe, DE, Temple
7 (254). Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA
The Kyler Murray-Josh Rosen saga has been dissected every which way, so here’s one final thought before we move forward: Our Robert Klemko reported that the Cardinals did not start making calls to trade Rosen until shortly before the draft, which is befuddling. The only reason to give away a 2018 No. 10 overall pick for a 2019 No. 62 pick (and a ’20 fifth-rounder) is if you unequivocally believe that the man replacing that No. 10 pick is once-in-a-lifetime savior. But if that were the case, wouldn’t the Cardinals have declared weeks ago that Murray was their guy? The NFL wouldn’t love them revealing the No. 1 pick like that, but it would have freed GM Steve Keim to shop Rosen before teams like the Giants and Redskins took themselves out of the market by deciding to draft a QB.
The only reason the Cardinals would not name Murray their guy early is if they were waiting to see if another team might offer a bounty to move up to the No. 1 pick. But trading down, of course, would put the Cardinals at serious risk of losing Murray. And so the fact that they appeared to have even considered that route, especially given that it diminished their leverage in trading Rosen, suggests that the organization might not unequivocally see Murray as a once-in-a-lifetime savior. Which only amplifies the pain of trading Rosen for pennies on the dollar. Overall this complicated—albeit uniquely—situation was handled in head-scratching fashion… and if we’re to factor it in when grading this draft, it knocks the team down at least a full letter grade.
Otherwise the rest of Arizona’s draft was sterling. WR Andy Isabella has vertical speed plus the explosive shiftiness to prosper from the slot in what we imagine will be a predominantly quick-strike offense under Kliff Kingsbury. Hakeem Butler is a monster-sized target whom some saw as a late first-round prospect. Adding these two to what had been a desperately lacking receiving corps does wonders for the offense, especially given that many of the passing formations will be buttressed by running back David Johnson’s exceptional receiving versatility.
On defense, the Byron Murphy pick addresses the No. 2 corner spot that has long been problematic opposite Patrick Peterson, and it buttresses the slot corner position, which now goes to recently acquired ex-Falcon Robert Alford. (Another option might be to play Murphy inside and keep Alford outside.) The front seven was amplified by Zach Allen, who is similar to another recently acquired ex-Falcon, Brooks Reed. It was also a pleasant surprise to see free safety Deionte Thompson still on the board in Round 6. Budda Baker and D.J. Swearinger are quality safeties but neither is a natural centerfielder. Thompson could see action sooner than later.
GRADE: A (or B, including the letter grade deduction for the Josh Rosen trade)
Los Angeles Rams
2 (61). Taylor Rapp, S, Washington
3 (70). Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis
3 (79). David Long, CB, Michigan
3 (97). Bobby Evans, T, Oklahoma
4 (134). Greg Gaines, DT, Washington
5 (169). David Edwards, T, Wisconsin
7 (243). Nick Scott, S, Penn State
7 (251). Dakota Allen, LB, Texas Tech
The Rams’ biggest need, by far, was interior offensive line, as stalwart veteran center John Sullivan is unsigned and All-Pro caliber left guard Rodger Saffold joined Tennessee. Unfortunately, two of the best interior prospects for L.A.’s outside zone-blocking scheme, Chris Lindstrom and Garrett Bradbury, were off the board before pick 20. Unwilling to reach and knowing that their roster is top-heavy with mega contracts for stars like Aaron Donald, Brandin Cooks, Todd Gurley, Dante Fowler and, soon, Jared Goff, the Rams traded back to stockpile picks that can provide cheap depth. They didn’t address their O-line until Bobby Evans late in the third round. Evans is built like a left tackle (which he played at Oklahoma). Can he transition to the inside, or will Joe Noteboom, last year’s third-round tackle and hopeful heir to Andrew Whitworth, be recast to guard fulltime?
Safety Taylor Rapp was their first pick, likely making L.A. a three-safety dime defense on passing downs (as opposed to a two-linebacker nickel defense). Rapp plays faster than he tests. If he can take over as a dime linebacker behind starting safeties John Johnson and sagely addition Eric Weddle, the lack of linebacker depth behind Cory Littleton is less unsettling.
L.A.’s third-round selections were interesting. The team says that drafting homerun-hitting tailback Darrell Henderson had little to do with Todd Gurley, but indirectly, that’s hard to reconcile, given that Gurley disappointed down the stretch last year and will be the one coming off the field when Henderson comes in. This isn’t to say the Rams don’t think Gurley can reclaim his status as The Guy, but now there’s insurance if he doesn’t. Later in Round 3, the Rams also tabbed physical press corner David Long, who can maybe play the slot right away before replacing Aqib Talib, whose contract expires after this season.
San Francisco 49ers
1 (2). Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State
2 (36). Deebo Samuel, WR, South Carolina
3 (67). Jalen Hurd, WR, Baylor
4 (110). Mitch Wishnowsky, P, Utah
5 (148). Dre Greenlaw, LB, Arkansas
6 (176). Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford
6 (183). Justin Skule, T, Vanderbilt
6 (198). Tim Harris, CB, Virginia
Nick Bosa’s arrival could catapult this defense to the top of the NFC West. Sound extreme? Consider that San Francisco’s biggest problem last year was an anemic pass rush that not only made their Seahawks-style Cover 3 scheme impotent but also led to an astonishingly low seven forced turnovers on the season (four fewer than history’s previous low, set by four other teams). Suddenly the 49ers, with Bosa and ex-Chief Dee Ford bookending stud DeForest Buckner and gifted third-year pro Solomon Thomas (who must play better), have a threatening nickel pass rush to go in front of a linebacking unit that added run-and-chase dynamo Kwon Alexander alongside last year’s third-round sensation, Fred Warner. Without Bosa, all of these pieces would not click together so crisply.
The only downside is that San Fran’s secondary still has questions at No. 2 corner and second-string safety. Perhaps the Niners feel better about their secondary than we do—after all, instead of addressing it early in Round 4, they instead took a punter, Utah’s Mitch Wishnowsky. In Rounds 2 and 3 they took wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Jalen Hurd, rounding out their well-schemed offense that already has three passing game weapons who weren’t on the field most of last year: QB Jimmy Garoppolo, RB Jerick McKinnon and newly signed RB Tevin Coleman.
1 (29). L.J. Collier, DE, TCU
2 (47). Marquise Blair, S, Utah
2 (64). D.K. Metcalf, WR, Mississippi
3 (88). Cody Barton, LB, Utah
4 (120). Gary Jennings Jr., WR, West Virginia
4 (124). Phil Haynes, G, Wake Forest
4 (132). Ugo Amadi, S, Oregon
5 (142). Ben Burr-Kirven, LB, Washington
6 (204). Travis Homer, RB, Miami
6 (209). Demarcus Christmas, DT, Florida State
People close to Doug Baldwin were privately saying back in February that the 30-year-old slot receiver might retire, so it’s unlikely that the news from Adam Schefter on Friday night caught the Seahawks off-guard. The team selecting D.K. Metcalf isn’t necessarily a response to that news; Metcalf was incredible value at the end of Round 2. Metcalf and Baldwin are opposite styles of receiver, and Seattle had a serious need for a big downfield perimeter target in Metcalf’s mold. Metcalf’s unrefined route running is less problematic in a system that’s built around Russell Wilson’s deep ball excellence and scramble drill playmaking, where routes inherently lose their detail anyway.
At the end of Round 1, Seattle took the defensive end it needed after trading what would have been a very expensive Frank Clark for a boatload to Kansas City. L.J. Collier doesn’t have Clark’s all-around quickness (perhaps no player on Earth save for Von Miller does), but he’s twitchy and versatile, which is key in a pass rush scheme that features a lot of stunts and twists.
Also on defense, the Hawks added depth at linebacker and safety—showcase positions in their Cover 3 system, which is built on inside defenders closing quickly on the ball. Marquise Blair will soon compete at either free safety or strong safety, where the Seahawks are still figuring out what they have in Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill and vastly underappreciated Bradley McDougald. LB Cody Barton offers nickel depth behind Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright while, hopefully, also solving the problematic No. 3 linebacker situation in base.
The only negative? Seattle did not address its glaring lack of depth at cornerback. The ever-critical slot position (which, to be fair, is a tad less critical in Seattle’s landmark zone cover scheme than it is in the matchup coverage schemes that most teams have) is still bereft of experience and talent following free agent Justin Colemans defection to Detroit.
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